If Men Could Menstruate

If Men Could Menstruate

Imagine a World Where Periods are Power_ A Dive into Gloria Steinem's Vision

Ever wondered what life would be like if periods were suddenly, well, manly? Buckle up, because feminist icon Gloria Steinem took us on that wild ride in her iconic 1978 essay, "If Men Could Menstruate."

Think: monthly parades celebrating manhood, high-tech tampons sponsored by NASA, and periods becoming a badge of honor instead of a hushed inconvenience. Steinem's satirical genius flips the script, exposing the deep-rooted biases against menstruation – and women – lurking in our society.

But this essay isn't just about laughs (though there are plenty of those!). It's a powerful thought experiment that challenges ingrained stereotypes and asks_ what if the natural process of menstruation wasn't seen as something to hide, but something to celebrate, empower, and even, dare we say, own?

So, ditch the whispers and grab your metaphorical megaphone. We're diving deep into Steinem's visionary world, where periods are a source of strength, not shame.

Those who have vs. those who have not.

Living in India made me understand that a white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking white skin makes people superior, even though the only thing it really does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and wrinkles.

Her writing was inspired by witnessing a female speaker be surprised by the arrival of her period while on stage. Speaking in public is a nightmare for many adding the unexpected red stain of your period for the audience to see is the zenith of nightmares. Regardless, the speaker remained composed and turned this unexpected and most likely unwanted event into a positive moment. Rather than being embarrassed and deterred by this, she was able to take strength showing what Steinem later described as using the power of positive thinking.

when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, "and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."

Laughter. Relief. She had turned a negative into a positive. Somehow her story merged with India and Freud to make me finally understand the power of positive thinking.

Whatever a "superior" group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever an "inferior" group has will be used to justify its plight.

Black men were given poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "stronger" than white men, while all women were relegated to poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "weaker." As the little boy said when asked if he wanted to be a lawyer like his mother, "Oh no, that's women's work." Logic has nothing to do with oppression.

So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event_

Men would brag about how long and how much. Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.

To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.

Statistical surveys would show that men did better in sports and won more Olympic medals during their periods.

Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("menstruation") as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat ("You have to give blood to take blood"), occupy high political office ("Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priests, ministers, God Himself ("He gave this blood for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean").

Male liberals and radicals, however, would insist that women are equal, just different; and that any woman could join their ranks if only she were willing to recognize the primacy of menstrual rights ("Everything else is a single issue") or self-inflict a major wound every month ("You must give blood for the revolution").

Street guys would invent slang ("He's a three-pad man") and "give fives" on the corner with some exchange like, "Man you lookin' good!"

"Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!"

TV shows would treat the subject openly. (Happy Days_ Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row. Hill Street Blues_ The whole precinct hits the same cycle.) So would newspapers. (Summer Shark Scare Threatens Menstruating Men. Judge Cites Monthlies In Pardoning Rapist.) And so would movies. (Newman and Redford in Blood Brothers!)

Men would convince women that sex was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.

Medical schools would limit women's entry ("they might faint at the sight of blood").

Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything at all? In philosophy and religion, how could women compensate for being disconnected from the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death and resurrection every month?

Menopause would be celebrated as a positive event, the symbol that men had accumulated enough years of cyclical wisdom to need no more.

Liberal males in every field would try to be kind. The fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine right-wing women agreeing to all these arguments with staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly)

In short, we would discover, as we should already, that logic is in the eye of the logician. (For instance, here's an idea for theorists and logicians_ if women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long? I leave further improvisation up to you.)

(c) IfMenCouldMenstruate. By Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, October 1978

What do you think? Would our societies viewpoint on menstruation change if the gender roles were turned?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.